The Mission High/San Francisco Solidarity Protest for George Floyd. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Hello, friends. I’m sending you much love and support right now. The past two weeks have been so intense—it has been a time to listen, and learn, and witness, and grieve, and feel tremendous compassion. And change. There are many important voices and perspectives and stories we need to listen to and make space for right now, which is why I haven’t recorded an episode of the On the Fly podcast since the brutal murder of George Floyd. It hasn’t felt right.
It’s also why I haven’t posted a personal statement, and have chosen to amplify Black voices and show support for the Black Lives Matter movement on my social media instead. I prefer to quiet down so I/we can better hear the Black voices I/we need to listen to. People are processing a lot of trauma and pain, and also lighting the way for change. I want to respectfully hold space for what I’m seeing and hearing, instead of adding noise.
However, many of you have been following me for years, and perhaps there are some of you who would be interested in what I’m thinking, observing, and learning right now. I wrote a piece a week ago, but I didn’t want to take up bandwidth, and decided not to post it. But for those of you who care to click over, I have now written another piece with some thoughts, observations, and resources. I’m not including it here in my newsletter—except for a few paragraphs below—because it should be your choice if you want to read it and take up time with it, or not.
BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) voices, keep coming to the front! We’re already seeing a dismantling of white-centric media brands, with Monday’s resignation of Bon Appétit’s editor in chief, Adam Rapaport, over a racist brown-face Halloween costume he wore 16 years ago, a precursor supporting the allegations of racism in BA’s workplace (including BIPOC contributors not being paid for their Test Kitchen videos, while white contributors were compensated), and a lack of inclusiveness and diversity in Bon Appétit’s content, contributors, and staffing. At Refinery29, the top editor and co-founder Christene Barberich has stepped down after accusations of racial discrimination in the workplace. There is definitely more to come. Fortunately, Osayi Endolyn has conveniently pre-written a searing food media resignation letter for anyone to use.
Even with all the well-meaning lists we’re seeing and posts about Black restaurants and businesses and artists and fashion designers and filmmakers and musicians to support, we need to pay attention to how we engage. Will our support be short-term or long-term, voyeuristic or authentic (and actionable)? This thought-provoking piece from Ruth Gebreyesus takes a closer look.
By all means, we must support Black business—and especially in this devastating pandemic, support is welcome and overdue. But we can’t just pick up some dinner for the first time from a Black-owned spot we recently learned about and post it on Instagram and mentally check the “I’m an ally!” box. We have to be more than performative (which includes taking selfies at a protest or posting a pic of your donation to the NAACP). With anything I am writing or posting these past two weeks, I keep checking in and asking myself: “Who does this benefit? Myself? Is this virtue signaling? Is this supportive, or performative? Is this educational, helpful, truly in solidarity?” (Learn more in this piece from Ijeoma Oluo.)
While I have always considered myself very committed to covering all kinds of diverse businesses and chefs and events in tablehopper, with a particular focus on women and small businesses, I recognize and fully acknowledge that I need to make a concerted effort to specifically elevate more Black businesses and makers and stories in this column and the other outlets I work with. I have fallen short in my coverage. I also need to expand my knowledge and awareness of our national Black food scene, including Black content creators and voices, from food writers to podcasters. I commit to engaging in more food justice work and activism, and to recommit to more volunteering.
And then there’s the inherent racism (and sexism! and anti-LGBTQIA/homophobia!) in our restaurant/F&B industry that desperately needs to be acknowledged and addressed and dismantled and reformed, from structural and staffing issues (do you hire and promote Black employees into management positions?), to sourcing (do you work with any Black farms or wineries or purveyors?), to how Black customers are treated. This piece from chef-writer Amethyst Ganaway is one to read now, as well as this one on our broken restaurant system, also from Ruth Gebreyesus. We have a huge opportunity to make crucial changes, right now, and for our future. [cont.]
Thank you for being here. I do have a few quick bites of restaurant news for you today, but otherwise, I want to continue to maintain a respectful, low volume at this time. I’ll be posting some restaurant updates on Instagram (@tablehopper) since I still want to show support for our struggling F&B industry—and please support Bakers Against Racism June 15th-20th—but that’s about it for now. Thanks for understanding, and let’s keep doing the work—every day.
Starting Friday June 12th, a big change is coming to our local dining landscape: after three months of takeout only/no on-premise dining service, SF restaurants are allowed to reopen for outdoor dining only. It was originally going to be Monday June 15th, but Mayor Breed decided to give us a present for the weekend (while causing yet another scramble for restaurants to figure something out quickly). Further safety guidelines from the Department of Health will be released this week as well, but do know you will need to wear a mask upon arrival to the restaurant, and when you get up from your table or go inside for any reason (bathroom, to order, etc.). The plan for indoor dining in SF is to reopen on July 13th, but that is TBD for now.
And yesterday, the city of San Francisco finally opened up their Shared Spaces application program for temporary permits to seat dining guests on sidewalks, in parking spaces adjacent to the restaurant, and to apply for street closures for seating (that will take more time). It’s going to be interesting to see how our city adapts and changes in coming weeks. Gold Street in front of Bix is going to have outdoor dining (and string lights) starting June 18th, and I have dreams of Rose Street alley behind Zuni being closed to traffic, and Valencia Street, and 24th Street, heck, streets all over the city.
I’m posting updates in my Instagram Stories and Highlights on who is opening for alfresco dining service (including 54 Mint, Maybeck’s, Piperade, Pier 23 Cafe, Zeitgeist, and more—and Montesacro is taking over the upstairs terrace at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe)! Restaurants, feel free to tag @tablehopper in your posts.
Here’s a fun teaser: SAM’S GRILL AND SEAFOOD RESTAURANT has reopened for takeout, and they’re opening their spacious patio this Friday! Their hours are Wed-Fri 12pm-7pm (with happy hour 5pm-7pm), and not only can you enjoy some shrimp cocktail and a Louie salad, but you can also pick up some fresh fish to go. They’re going back to their fish market roots in 1867, and offering petrale sole, salmon, cioppino, crab cakes, and more to take home. (It will also help support their supplier, A. LaRocca Seafood, who suffered a hit to their business in the recent Pier 45 fire.) Welcome back, Sam’s! 374 Bush St. at Belden.
As many of you know, I’ve been posting in my Instagram stories when restaurants have been reopening or expanding their hours or deliveries, and the flip side of all this are the restaurants that have sadly decided to close permanently.
I was reading a newsletter last night from SF Neon News, which mentioned the iconic neon sign for IT’S TOPS COFFEE SHOP has been taken down, and the knotty pine diner (since 1935) is permanently closed. Noooo! I tried reaching out to the owners via phone (disconnected), email, and Facebook (no reply); I will update this piece if I hear back. I would hope they would try to sell the business—it was such a slice of true vintage SF charm. Taking down the sign frankly feels wrong and pretty bleak. And then I just looked at these pictures on Hoodline of the booths being taken out, and I just can’t believe what I am seeing. Truly gutting. 1801 Market St. at McCoppin.
More sad news in Hoodline: ANGKOR BOREI, the 30-year-old Cambodian restaurant in Bernal Heights, has decided to close after coronavirus-related challenges, from diminished sales to not receiving a PPP loan. Many locals are saddened with the news—you have until June 15th to get one last spinach leaf appetizer, pumpkin curry, and ahmohk for takeout. Thank you to the sweet owners, Tom Prabpan and Chin Han Yat, for all the heartfelt meals. Wishing them a happy and well-earned retirement. 3471 Mission St. at Cortland.
After 20 years on Market Street, chef-owner (and native San Franciscan) James Schenk is closing his modern-Latin restaurant, DESTINO, but the good news is he plans to move to another location in the neighborhood or nearby (he’s considering where right now). The plan is to open up a primarily to-go business—which is definitely our upcoming future—focused on healthy Latin food (bring on the ceviches and empanadas), and he has held onto his liquor license, so there will be pisco. But the big question is… when. In the meantime, he has found another kitchen for his catering business when that kicks back in, hopefully soon. And when his new location opens up, we all need to show up for the big 20th birthday party that didn’t happen (no thanks to Miss Rona). Keep up with updates from James at @destinosf. 1815 Market St. at Pearl.
I was so happy to see a pic of Governor Gavin Newsom with chef-owner Sarah Kirnon of Miss Ollie’s, who visited her Old Oakland restaurant this week to connect. According to his Instagram post: “Addressing systemic injustice and racism starts with listening and learning. Yesterday, I met with small business owners and leaders from the Oakland community to discuss the policing and criminal justice reforms California is pursuing, and the persistent educational, economic & health inequities that impact the community.” Excellent choice, Guv.